NHRA: Experience Trumps Youth – The three NHRA Mello Yello Series winners at this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway have 28 world championships between them so experience was definitely the name of the game. Tony Schumacher (8-time champion), John Force (16-time champion), and Greg Anderson (4-time champion) took home the wins for Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock respectively.
For Schumacher and the U.S. Army team, the victory was particularly sweet. What was the 79th career victory for “the Sarge” was also a nice present for to help celebrate the 240th birthday of the U.S. Army.
“There’s only one race a year you can do that on, so it’s very special,” said Schumacher. He was also the No. 1 qualifier on the weekend. “People think it’s easy to win from the No. 1 spot, but it’s difficult. It was a rough first round, but Mike (Green) and Neal (Strausbaugh) made the correct changes to go fast and we won the race.”
Schumacher also defeated Morgan Lucas, Clay Millican, and Spencer Massey on his way to a final round matchup with 3-time series champion Larry Dixon. Schumacher earned the Wally with a run of 3.809 seconds at 320.74 mph to Dixon’s 3.881 seconds, 319.60 mph.
John Force scored victory number 143 for his career and second for this season with a 4.160 second, 309.49 mph pass against weekend No. 1 qualifier Tommy Johnson, Jr. The victory also means Force now has a win at every track that has appeared on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.
“I raced here 38 or 40 years ago before most of you were born to come back and have one race on the circuit that I couldn’t win; I needed this race win. One of these days I am going to go out and it is going to break my heart but I ain’t leaving until I win all of them and now I’ll try and win all of them twice. This was a great day,” said Force.
Greg Anderson finally hit a long awaited milestone with his 75th career victory at the Gatornationals earlier this season, but now that he passed that elusive number, he’s on a bit of a hot streak, posting career win number 77 at Epping, the first time since 2011 that he’s posted back-to-back wins after also scoring the victory last weekend at Englishtown.
Anderson ran past Val Smeland, Drew Skillman, and teammate Jason Line before matching up against Allen Johnson in the finals, a rematch of last week’s final round matchup at Englishtown. Anderson was once again the victor, posting a run of 6.512 seconds at 214.72 mph to Johnson’s 6.530 at 213.50 mph.
“My car has been fantastic,” said Anderson. “I’m absolutely having a ball. I’ve got a great race team behind me and they are doing a great job. I can’t wait to go to the next race.” Toni Montgomery
XFINITY: Fast and Furious for Kyle Busch at Michigan – Finally making his return to the XFINITY Series, Kyle Busch was back with a demeanor that we haven’t seen from him in quite a while. Though he didn’t have the best car at the two-mile oval on Saturday, the division’s all-time wins leader surely made sure that he was in Victory Lane when it was all said and done.
Passing reigning champion Chase Elliott with four laps left in the race, Busch held on to bring the No. 54 team its first win of the season. Crew chief Chris Gayle had never won on a non-plate track until Busch’s return at Michigan, and it should be a cause for concern among the competitors since the two are going to get even better as the season rolls on.
As for the championship battle, Chris Buescher had another impressive run for Roush Fenway Racing, extending his lead to 25 points ahead of Ty Dillon. The two-time winner this season finished fourth, with teammate Elliott Sadler right behind him to get his first top five of the year. Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s title hopes in his rookie year took another hit on Saturday, finishing 15th after struggling throughout the day, and eventually getting caught up in a late-race incident. Now, it is onto the standalone event at Chicagoland Speedway, where Elliott is looking to capture his first win of the season after earning his third one at Chicago last year. Joseph Wolkin
Camping World Truck Series: Johnny Sauter’s Pit Road Struggles – Johnny Sauter hasn’t exactly been setting the Truck Series world afire with his performance right now, but Saturday night at Gateway Motorsports Park, his pit crew made it even harder to find success. Each time the veteran brought his No. 98 Toyota down pit road for service, the stop was so long that it cost Sauter several positions, leaving him to make up the time on track. Not normally one to shy away from his emotions, even in the heat of the moment, Sauter called his crew’s performance “pathetic” following a third-place finish.
It’s actually hard to blame Sauter for being upset with his pit crew, though. After all, the one timed stop shown in Saturday night’s broadcast was a whopping 22 seconds, compared to his teammate’s stop of just over 14 seconds. But on the other side of that token, calling your crew members pathetic, even in the heat of the moment, just isn’t exactly the morale builder needed for a team that’s not exactly been strong this season. Crew chief Doug George should definitely work with his crew to improve on their performance or consider making changes before the long stops end any chances Sauter has at winning a race this season. Beth Lunkenheimer
Short Tracks: Matt Hirschman Finally Scores First 2015 Victory – The Tri-Track Open Modified Series was a creation a few years back by superfan of the ground pounders Jim Schaefer. It evolved from a simple fundraiser to now a four race mini-tour for asphalt Modified competitors across multiple racing series and states. One of the most successful in past open shows has been Matt Hirschman, however, the Pennsylvania driver was still searching for his first win of 2015. Hirschman broke out of that rut on Saturday night at Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire, collecting $6,000 in race winnings as well as other contingencies including money for leading laps generously donated by various sponsors. Aaron Creed